Watch: Elbouzedi on target as Ireland rout China in Toulon Tournament openerMon, Jun 03 2019
Waterford’s Zack Elbouzedi opened the scoring inside the first minute as Ireland kicked off the Toulon Tournament in France with an emphatic 4-1 victory over China.
The former Malahide United youngster sidefooted home with the aid of the crossbar after just 33 seconds following good work from Aaron Connolly.
Connolly added a second four minutes later before Li Yang pulled one back for China, but Adam Idah added two second-half penalties to cap off an easy win for Stephen Kenny’s side.
21-year-old Elbouzedi was one of two League of Ireland players in the starting line-up as Bohemians’ Darragh Leahy got the nod at left-back.
St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Jamie Lennon and Waterford striker Aaron Drinan came off the bench while UCD defender Liam Scales was an unused sub.
Ireland didn’t take long to find their stride and recently-released Liverpool defender Conor Masterson picked out Connolly with a crossfield pass.
The Brighton & Hove Albion striker easily drifted past the full-back and pulled the ball back for Elbouzedi, who had taken a step back into space before smashing home.
What a start for Ireland!— FreeSports (@FreeSports_TV) June 3, 2019
1-0 up after 33secs vs China!
Aaron Connolly Zach Elbouzedi pic.twitter.com/ADQAxktJQb
Connolly got on the scoresheet himself in the fifth minute when Masterson headed a delightful Connor Ronan into the Galwayman’s path and he made no mistake.
Dick Advocaat’s China pulled one back after 18 minutes when Li Yang met a corner from Chen Binbin and headed past Caoimhin Kelleher.
Normal service resumed after the break and Ireland gradually wore down the Chinese side with patient passing football.
Idah scored his first from the spot after Yang had handled Elbouzedi’s cross, before adding a second off the post when Jason Knight’s shot was blocked by the hand of Jian Guo.
Goal #3 for Rep of Ireland!— FreeSports (@FreeSports_TV) June 3, 2019
Adam Idah clinically dispatches the penalty, after Zach Elbouzedi's cross was stopped by a Chinese hand!
Rep of Ireland 3-1 China #IRLU21 | @FAIreland pic.twitter.com/TRuuHXfIMC
"We're delighted to start the tournament with a win, it's huge credit to the players who have worked really hard since coming into camp on Tuesday," Kenny told the FAI website.
"This Chinese team have had some good performances and we've watched them play very well, so the goals were at critical times for us and maybe made it look easier than it could have been.
"We've got great Irish players and we really want them to show the potential that they've got, their ability and I think we can take great encouragement from what we've seen today.
“We've got Mexico next and that will be a really tough match, but we can take a lot of confidence into Thursday."
Ireland play Mexico on Thursday before wrapping up their group against Bahrain on Sunday, with only the group winners and best runner-up qualifying for the semi-finals.